BOYS BASKETBALL: Beasts of the East
THIEF RIVER FALLS—Jarell Jacobs grew up watching the Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball teams, and after Monday's convincing 63-38 win over Win-E-Mac, he and his Panthers are one win away from joining the best CL-B squads in program history with a trip to the state tournament.
"It's fun," the sophomore guard said. "I've been watching Cass Lake since I was young and always dreamed about this. Now we're one game away from state."
Top-seeded Cass Lake-Bena played to its identity at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls, dismantling the No. 3 Patriots in the 8A East subsection championship and proving to be the best in the East.
The dominant second half helps set up a date with 8A West No. 1 Ada-Borup for the section title.
"We still feel confident. We're real confident. We've always been. The boys, and the even coaches, we know what we can do," CL-B head coach John Wind said. "We prepare. They're trained. It's them. They've got to do it."
The Panthers (28-1) only led by two points at halftime, but it wasn't an unfamiliar—or uncomfortable—spot.
"If we play defense, even if we have a bad half like we did again in the first half offensively, we're still right there in the second half," said Wind. "If we just start clicking to get our offense going, we're going to be fine."
A strong first-half start for CL-B was highlighted by an alley-oop lay in for Jacobs, who then immediately spiked down a shot attempt on the other end. Cass Lake-Bena used a 7-0 run to take an 18-10 lead midway through the first half—capped by a Timmy Smith 3-pointer—but the Patriots (17-12) wouldn't go away.
Win-E-Mac scored eight of the next 10 points, returning within one possession following an inside score for Joey Revier five minutes later. The 20-18 game soon tightened to 24-23, and although the Panthers returned their lead to five, Mikah Olson knocked down a turnaround fadeaway in the half's closing seconds to make for a slim 27-25 CL-B edge.
"In the first half, we weren't (executing)," Wind said. "We were like one or two passes and then we'd shoot, instead of running our offense all the way through."
But after halftime, Cass Lake-Bena lived up to its reputation of being a second-half team.
A quick 10-0 run had the Panthers in a 39-27 advantage, and the dominating effort continued until the difference stretched to 20 at 55-35. The onslaught continued over the final six minutes, as well, as CL-B used a 36-13 second half to seal the 63-38 win.
"Our coaches just told us to come out and play better defense," Jacobs said. "Our defense wasn't there in the first half. Then we came out and executed."
Arnold Kingbird paced the Panthers with a team-high 15 points, while Jacobs and Ethan Brown added in 12 apiece. Gavin Walker's 15 led Win-E-Mac, and Brekken Lindberg chipped in nine.
Cass Lake-Bena will return to the Ralph in Thief River Falls for the Section 8A championship against Ada-Borup at 7 p.m. Friday, March 16. In the building will be the section championship trophy that Jacobs has always dreamed of raising in triumph.
"We're going to go back the next three days and work harder," Jacobs said. "We're feeling confident... We're just going to come out and execute."
Cass Lake-Bena 63, Win-E-Mac 38
WEM 25 13—38
CLB 27 36—63
Win-E-Mac scorers: Walker 15, Lindberg 9, Revier 5, Olson 4, Hanson 3, Glass 2.
Cass Lake-Bena scorers: Kingbird 15, E. Brown 12, Jacobs 12, DeLapaz 6, Reyes 5, J. Brown 4, Washington 4, Smith 3, Lawrence 2.